Eleven years ago, “Plain White T’s” lead singer Tom Higgenson met Columbia University steeplechaser Delilah DiCrescenzo and declared that he was going to write a song about her.
He did. “Hey There Delilah” reached the top of the Billboard charts and was nominated for two Grammy awards in 2008.
It changed DiCrescenzo’s life, as she writes in the February 18 issue of ESPN The Magazine, but it brought its own challenges.
“I was lacking confidence in my running,” she wrote. “I wasn’t yet validated in my sport. I hadn’t proven myself. During competition, I didn’t want to feel scrutinized and have people root against me.”
She has since proven herself. Last week, DiCrescenzo, 29, finished sixth in the U.S. cross country championships to qualify for an automatic spot on Team USA for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, to be held in Poland next month. In 2009, she finished that same race as the second U.S. woman and 38th overall; in 2011, she made the U.S. team for the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in the 3000-meter steeplechase, although she was unable to compete because of an injury.
DiCrescenzo grew up in Illinois, but she came to New York City to attend Columbia, from which she graduated in 2005. After college, she trained for a few years in the Philadelphia area before moving back to New York City, where she lives near Columbia’s main campus. A New York Road Runners member, she trains with the New Jersey–New York Track Club and has won two recent NYC road races, smashing the course record at the Ted Corbitt 15K last December in 50:47—the longest race she’s ever run—and then breaking the tape in the four-mile Emerald Nuts Midnight Run on New Year’s Eve in 21:07.
She also won the historic Manchester (CT) Road Race on Thanksgiving Day last year.
It’s all music to her ears.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg